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Factors Affecting the Choice of Drug Brands by Doctors

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 1544 words Published: 3rd Jan 2018

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This research proposal explores the factors affecting the choice of branded drugs in India. Indian pharmaceutical market is unique due the presence of more than 60000 branded generic drugs. The doctors are spoilt for choice of brand. Hence it is important to find out the factors which affect the prescription of drugs to help both doctors and pharmaceutical companies serve patients better.



Pharmaceutical industry in India is now the third largest and 14th largest in the world in terms of volume and value, respectively. The total turnover of India’s pharmaceuticals industry for year ending September 2009 was US$ 21.04 billion with the domestic market contributing US$ 12.26 billion. [1]

Due to the expansion of middle and higher middle income groups in the country, a potential US $ 8 billion market of high cost drugs is expected to emerge by 2015. It is also expected that domestic pharmaceutical market will reach US $ 20 billion by 2015. This will make India a lucrative destination for various pharmaceutical giants. Another factor aiding this movement of multinational companies to India is the evolution of low cost drug policy and stagnation of western market. The pharmaceutical industry has grown at the rate of 12 per cent (CAGR) for the past few years, but this will accelerate soon. [1].

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India is among the world’s leading five Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients producers. Indian firms produce about 60,000 generic brands servicing 60 therapeutic categories. This is a unique characteristic of Indian pharmaceutical market as compared to the foreign markets where either Researched Brands or generic drugs are prescribed. These different brand names create a dilemma for the medical professionals while writing prescriptions.


The general process of selling involving the following steps is also applicable in case of generating required prescriptions.

UnawarenessAwarenessInterest EvaluationTest Prescriptions Repeat Prescriptions

The most cost effective ways of generating interest among doctors and consumers for new drugs are advertisements and public relations techniques. [2] While getting repeat prescriptions requires generation of involvement. Hence majority of spending goes towards direct-to-doctor (DTD) promotion. Among advertising, detailing (visits from sales representatives), direct mail, sales promotion, publicity and public relations, detailing contributes the most for doctors as well as a strategy for pharmaceutical companies. It is the only technique which can be used for all drugs according to Indian FDA regulations. Only Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs can be advertised publicly in the Indian market.

Key findings of research show a high level of interaction between the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession.

  • 86% receive medical samples frequently
  • 39% receive desk gifts
  • 19% receive invitations to congresses
  • 12% receive free lunches

Half of the doctors believe that receiving benefits from the pharmaceutical industry has an influence on medical prescription, but only 27% accept this as influential in their own prescriptions. [3]


Giving gifts (such as pens to expensive foreign holidays) to doctors is one of the most common techniques used by pharmaceutical companies. These companies are working on “relation of reciprocity” technique. In country like India, where a lot of importance is given to relationships, doctors on receiving gifts feel obliged to return the favour by prescribing the respective brands.


The main job of Pharmaceutical sales representatives is to convince the doctors to prescribe their products. Along with that they also deal with the channel partners like chemists, wholesalers and even hospitals and other medical service agencies. Hence they have the potential to influence the buying of drugs at every stage.

During their visits to the doctors they can customize the product offering based on the doctor profile and the types of patients that consult the doctor. They build relationships with the doctors and leverage it to extract maximum sales from that contact. They use all the selling skills to convince the doctors about the superiority of their products. They also act as the channel for the exchanging information. Many times this involves controlling the information that reaches the doctors as these representatives have become the main source of information about new research and products that hit the market every day. They increase the visibility of their products by continuously reminding and distribution of the gifts related to their products. All these activities influence the prescription habits of the doctors.

One of the survey results showed that:

  • 84% of GPs considered pharmaceutical representatives as an efficient source of information
  • 31% said they might change their therapeutic prescribing following visits from representatives [4]


Direct advertisement through mass media is restricted to OTC drugs. These are directed to end consumers i.e. the patients as well as channel partners. These can also be used to impart information without use of particular brand names and to create awareness for public benefit.

Many times advertisements become counterproductive by encroaching into the doctors space of providing treatment options creating discontent among doctors.


The concern is that pharmaceutical companies’ marketing has led to poor people paying for branded products that cost a lot more than the much cheaper generic but have little or no additional medical value. The poor patients cannot afford the original researched brands. Hence the many branded generic drugs fill in the void left by these pharmaceutical companies. The decision is left to the doctors whether the patient can afford the medication or to find out the one which is affordable.

Certain patients perceive the effect of costlier drug to be more than the cheaper one. The doctors need to look into the psyche of the patient before deciding which drug to recommend.


Majority of the doctors use brand names except in hospital setting where the brand is decided by pharmacy. There are various factors that lead to prescription of a branded drug than a generic drug.

Brand names are shorter and easier to remember thus get a preference over generic drugs in a prescription. E.g. On given a choice of ‘S-3-aminomethyl-5-methylhexanoic acid’ (36 letters) or ‘Lyrica’ (6 letters), it is most likely that doctors will opt for the latter being less complicated. [5]

Another common argument for prescribing a brand name is that it avoids patient confusion, as patients are most likely to use brand names for identifying drugs and usually have a poor knowledge of corresponding generic names. [6]

Other issues such as the quality and bioequivalence of generic substitutes are often mentioned. Availability, Sampling, Packaging, Continued Medical Education Programme and free disease detection camps are the factors that are to be evaluated upon.



  • To study the factors affecting the decision of doctors while prescribing a product
  • To recommend appropriate marketing strategies to Pharmaceutical companies as per customer needs
  • To explore customer (physicians) needs & wants from a pharmaceutical company


The research shall be completed in 8 months time frame (Design and Sampling – 2 months, Data Collection – 4 months, Data Analysis and Reporting – 2 months)


Study is limited to doctors in major cities of India



The researcher has to collect data through mail or telephonic interview by getting questionnaire filled up from chosen doctors


The researcher has to refer to various Pharmaceutical and Marketing Journals, Magazines, Reports & websites


1000 Physicians have been chosen from across major cities in India


Random & purposeful Sampling Method

20 Cities have been randomly selected

50 Physicians have been randomly selected from each city

Cities chosen are:

Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Pune, Chandigarh, Patna, Guwahati, Bhopal, Itanagar, Raipur, Ranchi, Panaji, Jaipur, Bhubaneswar


Data collected from different sources has to be tabulated.

Percentage and Average method has been applied to analyze data.


The Sample size chosen may not be enough to give a true representation of the total population.

The research only encompasses metros and A-Tier cities.


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